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Amherst gets $450k in state funds for housing-related projects

Town Manager John Musante said this week that the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development recently committed this so-called transition funding after the town lost its status as a mini-entitlement community and was no longer eligible to receive around $900,000 in Community Development Block Grant money.

The largest portion of the transition money, around $165,000, will be used to refurbish 55 residences at Ann Whalen Apartments, with another $105,000 to construct new accessible sidewalks along South East Street that will connect to College Street.

An additional $90,000 will be provided to Craig’s Doors, the agency that runs the Craig’s Place shelter from the First Baptist Church. Musante said Craig’s Doors will still need to raise more money for operations.

The transition funding supplements $90,000 appropriated from cash reserves by annual Town Meeting to fund other social service needs, including a mentoring program at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County, a resource caseworker for Family Outreach of Amherst and a food pantry at the Amherst Survival Center.

Musante said the upshot of the state’s commitment is the town will again be able to fund $180,000 in social service programs, exactly the same as last year.

The transition funding is less than the $800,000 for which the town applied. Without full funding, fewer Ann Whalen units will be renovated and the town will not do needed flooring work at the North Amherst School, where the Amherst Survival Center and Head Start had previously been housed.

Though Amherst is no longer a mini-entitlement community, Musante said the CDBG Advisory Committee will still be meeting this fall, soliciting proposals for both social service and non-social service needs, then developing recommendations for a budget proposal to be made by Musante.

If the state doesn’t restore the town’s mini-entitlement status and provide automatic money to Amherst, these recommendations may be used as the basis for seeking competitive grants, Musante said.

Musante said he is also in the midst of determining how next year’s budget proposal will meet these needs.

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